Kyalami: Event preview

World Champion Bayliss under fire at AA Kyalami The World Superbike Championship hit squad will be on the prowl for world champion Troy Bayliss at round three of the series, presented by Vodacom, at AA Kyalami from April 5 to 7. Bayliss will...

World Champion Bayliss under fire at AA Kyalami

The World Superbike Championship hit squad will be on the prowl for world champion Troy Bayliss at round three of the series, presented by Vodacom, at AA Kyalami from April 5 to 7.

Bayliss will arrive at the Midrand circuit already having rewritten the WSBK record books, and with a healthy early lead in the championship. That makes the Australian fair game for the rest of the WSBK pack, and the South African shootout has the potential to explode into a free for all.

Four wins in four starts at Valencia and Phillip Island have already moved Bayliss, on the Infrostrada Ducati, 31 points of former world champion Colin Edwards from the Castrol Honda squad. No one has ever started a WSBK season in such commanding fashion, and Edwards and other title hopefuls have to play some early catch up.

Edwards said after Phillip Island that he was already sick and tired of finishing second behind the Aussie, and the Texan looks to be the rider most likely to stop the Bayliss early season charge. Edwards has a liking for South Africa and for AA Kyalami, and this could be the spur he needs– along with the knowledge that he needs to make inroads into the Bayliss championship lead.

Apart from Edwards there are a couple of other candidates to put an end to a winning streak that has already made Bayliss the favourite to win back-to-back titles. Team-mate Ruben Xaus picked up two podium finishes at Phillip Island, but team orders might keep him lower down on the podium unless Bayliss runs into trouble in either race.

Another American, Ben Bostrom, from the L&M Ducati squad, is also a threat. AA Kyalami provided Bostrom with his first WSBK win last season, and he currently holds the lap record at the Midrand circuit.

Bostrom is third in the championship, and three points clear of Noriyuki Haga who returns to the WSBK fold after a not so successful year in Grand Prix racing. The spectacular Haga takes over from former world champion Troy Corser at Aprilia, and if the team can get all the sums right Haga is another potential winner.

Briton Neil Hodgson, on the HM Plant Ducati, is a good outside bet in a series that is already in danger of being dominated this season by Ducati. The likes of Fuchs Kawasaki riders Hitoyashu Izutsu and Chris Walker and the competent Gregorio Lavilla, on the Alstare Corona Suzuki, look destined to spend the whole season working their fingers to the bone to pick up top five placings.

Whatever happens the AA Kyalami outing is sure to produce the fastest Superbike racing seen in this country. If you are a betting man you could safely bet your house, your car and whatever other possessions you hold dear that Bostrom’s lap record will fall by the wayside.

On the Supersport front a small band of South Africans will be aiming for glory, and will relish the prospect of being able to upstage top factory and privateer teams. Greg Dreyer and Stewart Macleod will be out on Cell C Suzukis, Trevor Crookes on the UUNET Ducati, Arushen Moodley on a Honda and Noel Haarhoff on the De Walt Suzuki.

The South African quintet are all talented and aggressive, and a little local knowledge won’t go amiss in their attempts to cause a few upsets. At the end of the day the biggest threat to the South African challenge is the intensity of world championship racing, and the ability to concentrate for a lot longer than they are called on in national championship races.

The wins in the first two rounds of the season have gone to Frenchman Fabien Foret on the Ten Kate Honda, and world champion Andrew Pitt on the Fuchs Kawasaki. Pitt chose Phillip Island to score what amazingly was his first ever Supersport win, and the Australian will arrive at AA Kyalami all fired up.

Apart from Foret and Pitt there are also a number of other riders who will be looking to make it a winning weekend in South Africa. Stephane Chambon, on the Alstare Corona Suzuki, James Whitham and Paolo Casoli on Yamaha Belgarda entries and Piergiorgio Bontempi on the NCR Nortel Networks Ducati all have the necessary credentials and it is going to be a fast and furious weekend.

-aa racing-

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About this article
Series World Superbike
Drivers Troy Bayliss , Colin Edwards , Andrew Pitt , Neil Hodgson , Gregorio Lavilla , Ruben Xaus , Troy Corser , Fabien Foret , James Whitham , Ben Bostrom , Phillip Island